Sunday, January 10, 2016

Classic TV: The Original Amateur Hour (1948)

The Original Amateur Hour began as a radio show, founded and hosted by Major Edward Bowes from 1934-45. After Bowes passed away in 1946, his assistant, Ted Mack, took over the franchise, and kept it going on both radio and television. The radio version was revived for four years (1948-52), leading to Mack focusing solely on television from that point forward.

Originally a primetime program, The Original Amateur Hour aired on all four broadcast networks (DuMont, ABC, CBS, NBC) during television's golden age, ending its first run on CBS in 1960. The "Tiffany of the Networks" brought the show back not long after, moving it to Sunday afternoons, usually just before the 6:00 (ET) news. This continued until Mack terminated the series in 1970.

In this regard, CBS seemed to set themselves up pretty well on Sundays during the 60's. Mack before the news, and, after the news, there would be Ed Sullivan, whose variety show had the same kind of potpurri of acts as Mack did, a collection of singers, instrumental musicians, comedians, et al.

Between radio & television, The Original Amateur Hour introduced America to a good number of talents, including Frank Sinatra (radio), Ann-Margret, Irene Cara (who later scored a #1 hit with the theme from "Fame" in 1980), Gladys Knight, and Robert Klein. Pat Boone appeared on the show,  but it later got out that he'd already appeared on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, which disqualified him from the Amateur Hour competition.

My memory of the series is its reincarnation as a Sunday afternoon show. Following is a sample clip from that era:

By then, Geritol, the show's primary sponsor, had become internationally known.

In 1992, the show was revived, with Willard Scott (The Today Show) as host for cable's Family Channel (now ABC Family/Freeform). Unfortunately, Scott only got 1 13 week season, as it was looked upon by a modern audience as being not a revival of a classic, but derivative of another show that had used The Original Amateur Hour as a template----Star Search.

Today's talent competitions, such as American Idol, America's Got Talent, and the defunct Last Comic Standing, owe their existence to the vision of Edward Bowes, who started it all 82 years ago.

Rating: A.

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